Places to visit in Yorkshire: 8 best destinations

Yorkshire. Home to tea, moorland, football, castles, and of course – Yorkshire Pudding. England’s Northern County boasts an illustrious history, heading the industrial revolution in recent history, and hosting the Romans and Vikings in earlier years. Its occupation by different invaders left many historic attractions in Yorkshire, including forts, cathedrals, and castles.

Aside from history, Yorkshire is famed for its nature. The Yorkshire Dales and North York Moors National Park have a barren, pensive charm. And, in summer months, the purple heather and drystone walls cut a sight that attracts tourists from far and wide.

With all the places to go and see, you may wonder how to choose where to visit in Yorkshire? As a local born and bred, I’ve curated a guide to narrow down your choices for you. Here are the 8 best places to visit in Yorkshire.

Places to Visit in Yorkshire: Malham

An unassuming village located on the Pennine Way, Malham attracts tourists with its famed cove and limestone pavement. Malham Cove is cut from a 70m limestone cliff, believed to have been eroded by glacial movement dating back to the Ice Age. The Cove itself is amphitheater-shaped with a path curling up the left of the cliff. Following this path, walkers can reach the clifftop for expansive views over Malham.

For many, the cracked limestone pavement at the cliff top might look familiar. The pavement was used a film set for Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows and in Wuthering Heights, meaning Malham could have been on your TV screen before.

Its recommendable to allow a few hours to explore Malham Cove and climb the cliff, but you should also aim to visit Janet’s Foss. The waterfall gets its name from Jennet, the ‘Queen of Fairies’, and walking to the falls, you can spot trees filled with coins as presents to the fairies in exchange for good luck. When you reach Janet’s Foss, you are treated to limestone-blue water and a pool at the base of the falls where you can swim.

Once you have finished exploring, there are quality dining options in Malham. The Secret Garden Bistro and The Old Barn Tearoom both offer al fresco dining to enjoy sunny days. And, if you wish to stay overnight in the village, The Lister Arms offers dining and hotel accommodation for visitors to Malham.

Places to Visit in Yorkshire: Whitby

From Dracula to Captain Cook, there are plenty of fascinating Whitby tourist attractions. The coastal town sits accessibly on the UK’s Eastern shore – pinned between the sea and the North York Moors National Park.

Whitby has a romantic appeal, with cliffside Whitby Abbey overlooking the waterfront township below. The Old Town is a maze of cobbles, alleyways, and independent jewelers selling local Whitby Jet. And, for dining, choose a traditional restaurant and skip over the selections of food in favor of locally sourced sea food.

Going back to Dracula and Captain Cook, Whitby provided inspiration for both. Bram Stoker drew inspiration from Whitby’s cliffside monastery for his gothic novel Dracula, directly referencing the town in the novel’s diary extracts by character Mina. Visitors to Whitby can explore the Monastery ruins and the nearby museum to learn more about the Abbey’s history and literary influence.

Close to Swing Bridge, which crosses the dividing River Esk, you can also visit the Captain Cook Memorial Museum – where the explorer lived as an apprentice. Many features of the 17th century house are original, including certain floorboards, and the utmost care has been taken to preserve the property’s historic state. Visitors can learn about Cook’s voyages and early life, while uniquely treading his footsteps in his old residence.

For a full guide on things to do in Whitby, check out my article here.

Places to Visit in Yorkshire: Ripon

Classed only as a city due to its medieval cathedral, Ripon is easily explored by foot. Ripon is primarily hailed as one of England’s oldest cities and holds plenty of stories and history.

The Ripon Cathedral holds the remains of an Anglo-Saxon crypt, art displays, and stunning interior architecture.  The Cathedral features traditional stain glass windows, which cover parts from floor to ceiling – making for a beautifully aesthetic experience. Outside of sermons and worship times, visitors are free to explore Ripon Cathedral at ease.

For shopping lovers planning a visit to Ripon, it is worth arranging your trip dates to include a Thursday. Since the eighth century, The Market Square has hosted traders and their stalls every Thursday, selling local products and goods to visiting shoppers.

Aside from shopping, Ripon has a few museums to discover, including the Police and Prison, Courthouse, and The Workhouse Museum. The Police and Prison and The Workhouse Museum are original Victorian properties, looking to give visitors an immersive experience of what life was like for their residents.

Located only half an hours drive from Harrogate, Ripon makes an ideal day trip or short stay. There are also notable places to visit near Ripon, making the city a good base to explore more of North Yorkshire. Fountains Abbey is less than 10-minutes drive from Ripon and Brimham Rocks less than 20-minutes away – both making excellent day trips from the city.

Places to Visit in Yorkshire: Haworth

Coined as ‘Bronte Country’, Haworth is most famous for its renowned ex-residents the Bronte sisters. Known for their literature works such as Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre, the sisters’ church and parsonage can be explored by visitors today. The Bronte Parsonage has functioned as a museum since 1928, hosting literary events and immersing guests into the sisters’ lifelong home.

Haworth is also famed in the filming world, having been used as sets for many films and series. Fans of the Peaky Blinders, The Railway Children, and Jane Eyre, may notice certain familiar locations – which adds to the excitement of a visit. Haworth main street is the iconic snapshot of the town, with a sloping cobbled street lined by independent shops, pubs, and cafes.

While Haworth is easily accessible by car, you may wish to opt to visit by train. The Keighley & Worth Valley Railway has been running since 1867 and is known for its iconic feature in The Railway Children. The railway does far more than take visitors from A to B, and the lines’ Ingrow West stop has two museums where guests can visit to learn more about the trains and its history.

Places to Visit in Yorkshire: Knaresborough

The clifftop town of Knaresborough is well-known by its railway viaduct, crossed by incoming trains. Home to castle ruins, calcified teddy bears, and Wednesday markets – the town merits a stop when visiting Yorkshire.

Knaresborough is most famous for its Mother Shipton’s Cave and the Petrifying Well, where the water mysteriously turns objects to stone. A mesmerising geographical phenomenon, the deposited minerals in the water petrify objects – gradually turning them to stone. While there is a genuine scientific explanation, the site retains a magical atmosphere. The story of the ancient prophesier Mother Shipton spurs the magical ambience, since the traditional Yorkshire story claims she lived in the cave next to the well.

Another popular water-related activity is to hire a rowing boat to sail down the River Nidd. Rowing under the viaduct is a scenic way to explore Knaresborough by river and, better still, prices are low at £7 an hour for adults.

If you prefer to stay on land, Knaresborough also holds the title for the oldest pharmacy in England. ‘Ye Oldest Chymist Shoppe in England’ now welcomes guests for afternoon tea, while still selling the lavender water it was revered for in its chemist days.

Places to Visit in Yorkshire: Ilkley

A middle-class spa town, Ilkley draws crowds for its Cow and Calf rocks, White Wells, Betty’s Café, and the aesthetic Grove main street. Visitors can enjoy woodland walks, the pebbled beaches lining the River Wharfe, and rugged moorland wanders – all within walking distance of Ilkley Town Centre.

Ilkley has attracted some famous guests, including Charles Darwin, who ventured to take a dip in the ‘healing waters’ of White Wells in 1859. Modern visitors can still enter the unheated plunge pool, although the most popular day to ‘plunge’ is on New Year’s Day. To mark the arrival of the New Year, hundreds submerge themselves in the icy waters as part of a (slightly crazy) tradition.

Ilkley Moor is known by many from the Yorkshire folk song ‘On Ilkla Moor Baht ‘at’. However, the Cow and Calf rocks holds their own place in Yorkshire legend. Local legend has it that the rocks were split by a fleeing giant, Rombald, who cracked the rock in two mid-run. Nowadays, visitors can climb the short path from the Cow and Calf carpark to access the scenic viewpoint from atop the rocks. I’ve written a complete guide to visiting Ilkley Moors here.

And, for a bit of history, visitors to Ilkley can visit the Ilkley Manor House or Toy Museum. The Manor House was built in the 14th century on the base of Ilkley’s old roman fort, named Olicana. The house now functions as a museum and art gallery, open every weekend from 11am to 4pm. Nearby, the Toy Museum showcases toys from the ‘4th century BC to the present day’, including ‘a nationally important collection of early English wooden dolls’. Also open at weekends, the two museums would combine nicely for a historic weekend trip to Ilkley.

If you choose to base yourself in Ilkley, there are lots of places to visit near Ilkley. Less than 15-minutes-drive away, Bolton Abbey is an expansive country estate, open to the public with a number of scenic walks and attractions. The Priory Church and Ruins attract flocks of tourists and the nearby Devonshire Arms is one of the most luxurious places to sample afternoon tea, next to Betty’s of course. And, for a city day, visitors to Ilkley can catch a half an hour train into Leeds City Centre.

Places to Visit in Yorkshire: York

Famed for its Viking and Roman influence, York is a walled city with novel architecture, complex history, and excellent shopping. A wonderful combination we can easily agree.

The city is centred around York Minister, a 13th century gothic cathedral open daily for visitors. The Jorvik Viking Centre is another popular attraction in York. Offering an immersive ‘time capsule-style’ exploration of Viking-occupied York, Jorvik takes visitors round moving re-enactments of typical Viking scenes on a cart ride. If you are interested in Viking history – York is the best place to visit in Yorkshire.

Of course, its not all Vikings in York. The Shambles attract many visitors and avid photographers, who snap shots of the narrow, medieval street. In fact, the street gets so narrow in sections, rumour has it that you can stretch your arms to touch both side of the streets. And further rumours suggest that The Shambles even inspired JK Rowlings Diagon Alley. But, regardless of rumours, the street’s medieval aesthetic entitles it a place on your York itinerary.

Whether you scale the city walls, scare yourself with darker history at The York Dungeons, or embrace gothic architecture at the York Minister – York is a great place to visit in Yorkshire.

Places to Visit in Yorkshire: Harrogate

A wealthy spa-town, Harrogate is a major hub in North Yorkshire. Ideally situated to explore neighbouring villages and attractions, the town provides countryside proximity alongside all the facilities you could desire.

The Harrogate Baths are a popular local attraction. The baths provide a luxury Turkish Baths experience and have become a symbol of Harrogate – having been open since 1897. The interior design derives inspiration from Islamic and Moorish architecture, creating a unique spa experience to have in Yorkshire. The Baths have mixed, female only, and men only sessions, ranging from £19 to £32 depending on what time you visit.

Like Ilkley, Harrogate is home to Betty’s Tea Rooms – known for its indulgent, quintessentially English dining. Afternoon tea at Betty’s is by no means a budget experience, but is an experience nonetheless. Sample signature tea blends and pick dainty cakes, sandwiches, and scones from a traditional food stand. Betty’s is the epitome of upper-class dining and will have you feeling very British.

Harrogate is a fantastic town to wander round and shop, especially for antique lovers. If you wish to visit Betty’s or The Harrogate Baths, it is best to book ahead as both can book up quickly. Overall, Harrogate is the best place to visit in Yorkshire to indulge.

To Conclude

Wherever you visit in Yorkshire, you will never be too far from typical Yorkshire character, good pub dining, and charmingly rugged scenery. Its recommendable to rent a car to fully experience the county, as so much can be discovered driving the winding country roads. Although, most places on this list are accessible by public transport should you not wish to drive.

For those of you familiar with Yorkshire, are there any other places you believe should make the top 8? Feel free to let other readers know in the comments below.

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